Interview: Living and Working in Canada

Tell us about you and why you chose Vancouver…

I’m Jen. I am a 30 year old female who has lived abroad for just under 5 years. I am originally from Brisbane, Australia and have spent time living in London, Malta, Austria and now reside in Vancouver.

I chose to move to Vancouver for a number of reasons, the first being that the lifestyle and culture of this city suits my hobbies and interests particularly as Vancouverites are yoga budding – healthy eating – hiking hippies! I love the outdoors but I am not a beach person. I enjoy the mountains and the seasons that come with living on the west coast of Canada. 

Moose encounter in Whitehorse

How long have you been there? 

18 months.

Did you need a Visa? What was the process? 

The Visa process is not easy. We ended up seeking the assistance of an organization called SWAP which assists young people with the process and provides ongoing support when you arrive (more on that later!)

Did you move solo or with a significant other? 

I moved with my fiancé’ Luke.

How did you get there? Is this the best way?

We flew from Melbourne to LA, then took a flight to Vancouver. Only in the peak season do they offer a direct flight from Australia with Air Canada.

What were your first impressions?

We arrived in summer and the weather was perfect for almost 3 months straight. It was the driest summer they had had in almost 20 years. We picked a good time to arrive!

Where did you stay when you first arrived?

We stayed in a hostel downtown called SameSun. It’s around $50 a night for a shared dorm room in summer, which is quite expensive as far as hostel rooms go – welcome to Vancouver!

How did you find a place to live?

Canada operates through Craigslist, which is a big pain if you are used to the modern world! No idea why this is the platform of choice but if you are going to live here you better get onboard!

How many places have you lived in since you’ve been there?

Quite a few. This is my 4th place. The first place we moved into after initially arriving our landlord lived above us. It was a nightmare so that arrangement was short lived. We have been in other share houses and even did a short stint living out of our motorhome!

Where is your place in relation to the city centre?

It is very close, around 1.5km from downtown however in Vancouver traffic sometimes it can take almost half an hour if you are driving there!

Transport – how do you get around? 

By bike, bus, skytrain or car. Bikes are very popular in the city and there are plenty of bike lanes for cyclists.

How much does it cost per month for living essentials like rent, food and transport?

  • Rent: $700
  • Food: $300
  • Transport: Weekly bus/skytrain pass $35

What are you doing for work?

I work full time at a Nurses Union doing an administration role.

Is the salary comparable to what you’ve earned elsewhere? 

The minimum wage in Vancouver is a disgraceful $10.45 an hour. Ludicrous considering the cost of living in this city!

How did you find the job?

Through an agency called Hunt.

How long did it take you to get a job after you arrived?

It took quite a while, a few weeks which was longer than I expected. It was also the first time that I had interviewed for jobs and didn’t get them! It was a shock to me how many people would be applying for the same job.

How much money did you have saved up before moving over?

I saved around $15,000 before moving here.

What tips do you have for others trying to get a job there? 

Competition is fierce for jobs here. Register with as many agencies as you can. Some good ones are Hunt, Temporarily Yours, Angus One and Randstad.

How is your lifestyle different there?

It is very similar to life in Australia just much colder.

Winter in Revelstoke

What’s the weather like?

It rains for almost 2 months straight between September and November.

How did you make friends?

Through various jobs, housemates and Swap. Here’s a bit more about Swap:

The staff at SWAP have been incredibly helpful. To move overseas is such a daunting experience, I don’t know if I would have attempted to do something like this on my own without knowing there was a support network on the other end when I arrived. To have an initial point of call upon landing instantly made the process easier. The first week that I arrived I spent every day in the office. I was able to get advice on where to look for a place to live, job opportunities and even assistance putting together a Canadian Resume. Having their assistance with putting together applications and knowing how to get to and from interviews and house viewings made the process so much smoother. To top off the experience the girls at SWAP are so lovely that even a year into our adventure we are still calling on them to answer questions. They are always happy to help!

Do you eat out often?

No, I prefer my own home cooking although that’s because I have an allergy to gluten. It’s just easier that way.

While we’re on the topic, have you got any local favourite restaurants or activities we must try?

In Vancouver the seafood is so cheap! Sushi here is among the best and most inexpensive I’ve ever come across. Sushi Bella, or Sushi California (both chains in Canada) are amazing and affordable. You can get a big plate of salmon sashimi for under $10.

What are the biggest cultural differences?

Their obsession with hockey!

What has been the most local experience you’ve had so far?

While on a road trip in our motorhome travelling through the Canadian Rockies on our way to the Calgary Stampede, we stopped to set up camp for the evening at a lake. We thought we were being quite Canadian while cooking up our moose sausages for dinner. The smell of the moose must have been enough to entice a black bear to our area. We noticed something moving behind the trees and there it was rubbing its back up against a tree! It was the first time we saw a black bear! It didn’t come any closer to us and we loved the close encounter. That night, aware that the bear might still be about we kept waking during the night. At one point I peeked through the curtain window and there they were, the northern lights! What an amazing experience, one I will certainly never forget!

Where is home? How often do you travel there and why?

Brisbane, Australia. I have not been back since I left for Canada 18 months ago. It’s too expensive and too long of a trip!

What do you miss most about home? 

Friends and family.

Do you think you’ll go back there to live? 

Yes, eventually to “settle down”.

How do you feel about going home?

Cidery on Vancouver Island

Mixed emotions! Looking forward to seeing my friends and family but now that my heart is in other places it’s a conflicting feeling!

How do you know Jodie from Hoff to Explore?

Jodie contacted me about my room in London which I was subletting while going travelling. Who knew we would become buds and end up doing our own travel together!

And lastly: describe living and working in Canada in one word!


Abbotsford Tulip Festival

Interview date: December 2016